Grey Alien Games  has just announced that its latest casual puzzle title, Spring Bonus , has been released for the PC and Mac platforms. We saw this game demonstrated at last Monday’s Indie Dev Meetup, and I highly recommend this title for the whole family.
A very highly polished production, Spring Bonus is an Easter-themed game that offers very cute and well-drawn graphics, a Disney-esque soundtrack and non-irritating sound effects. While the soundtrack and sound effects are pleasant to listen to while playing the game, it is possible to adjust the volume or even turn it off. An important marker for me is if I can play through the game with no sound and still do well. I know that much effort goes into writing soundtracks and getting just the right sound effects, but being able to play a game without the sound a bonus point on development as far as I’m concerned. 
Spring Bonus releases with 100 levels spread across a colourful map in a country setting, which pairs up nicely with the game’s pieces which feature spring flowers, bunnies, carrots and various Easter egg treats. The first 18 levels of Spring Bonus are available in the game’s demo , which installs smoothly and easily.
There are a variety of board shapes, each of which with its own challenges. Some are filled with ice blocks that need to be broken either by matching the game pieces or using power-ups to break or melt them. Some levels only require the matching of a set number of pieces to advance to the next level, while others require a combination of pieces to be matched or removed. There are even some level with multiple mini boards to work through – and luckily for the player, the power-ups can cross board borders.
Every few levels feature the elusive golden eggs, which must be moved down the board by eliminating the pieces below them until the golden eggs fall off the board. To add to the challenge, you can opt to play against the clock or play in relaxed mode, which is a great option for younger children to play, especially as they may get distracted simply by looking at the the puzzle pieces or they may want to play by their own methods, as children sometimes do. The only negative point of the entire game is that it lacks a keyboard lock-out to prevent children from exiting the game and accidentally accessing your files or the web. While I don’t condone using games as a babysitter, even those parents who are sitting with their children while playing a game get distracted – the phone rings, another child needs attention, dinner needs to be prepared, and it’s always nice to know that if you do have to leave the computer for a moment, your child cannot leave the game screen.
The instructions and tool tip windows are very easy to understand, but they will need to be explained to children who either can’t yet read or who are at the beginning stages of learning how to read. This is another opportunity for parents to work with their children in learning not only game play but also new words and meanings. The tool tip popups can also be turned off if they are not needed, plus they can either be left to fade from the screen or closed by clicking on the X. Another option is to play the game either in full screen or tiled mode, which is handy if you have other things going on such as chat windows.
If you have chosen to play in relaxed mode, you can easily up the ante by switching to timed mode with a click of the mouse, as there is a check box on the game screen to switch back and forth. Even relaxed mode gives you extra bonus points if you finish within the set limit, but does not penalize you for running out of time, other than to not give you the extra points. The time limits given for each level are realistic, and really won’t put you into panic mode unless you get sidetracked with just matching the pieces.
There are several power-ups available to help you advance faster through the levels- something which comes in handy not only in timed mode but also when you need to drop the golden eggs off the board or change up some pieces. You gain power-ups by matching 4 or more pieces, with bubbles being the first power-ups to appear. When you click on a bubble, it clears the blocks around it – but in order to really power-up your power-ups and give them more range, you need to make matches with the glowing pieces. When you do this, your magic rainbow will fill up with colour, and once it’s bright and shiny, your power-ups will harness the power of the rainbow and clear even more tiles, columns or rows.
Power-ups come in the form of the aforementioned bubbles, birds in a nest, four-leaf clovers, storm clouds, hammers, magnifying glasses and the sun. The nesting birds fly out horizontally when you click on them, clearing from one to three rows, depending on your shiny Rainbow power. Storm Clouds will clear one to three columns, while the Four Leaf Clovers clear a star-burst pattern vertically, horizontally and diagonally. The Hammer will break ice cubes, the Sun will melt a circle of ice cubes much the same way as the Bubble clears squares, and the Magnifying Glass will clear one tile of ice. There are also Mystery Boxes which appear later in the game (beyond the 18 demo levels) that contain a surprise. I imagine there are power-ups hiding inside, but one never knows.
Spring Bonus is a very high quality casual game – the colours are bright and appealing, the characters and scenery are well-drawn, the menu is easy to use and understand, and you can even save the game’s background to your PC or Mac as desktop wallpaper. For those of you constantly on the go, Spring Bonus will also be available for iPad and Windows Phone 7 in the near future. The game has also been localized into 9 languages including English. Spring Bonus does not require the latest computing power to run on your PC or Mac, which is always a bonus, because not everyone has the latest high-powered gaming rig, and as it’s a downloadable title, I can even play it on my netbook.
PC Minimum System Requirements:
Operating System: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Windows 7
Hard Drive Space: 27MB
Graphics Card: DirectX7 or OpenGL compatible 3D graphics card 
DirectX Version: 7
Sound Card: Any
Mac Minimum System Requirements:
CPU: Intel or PowerPC
Operating System: OSX 10.3
Processor Speed: 800MHz
Hard Drive Space: 32MB
Graphics Card: OpenGL 3D compatible graphics card
Sound Card: Any
Spring Bonus offers very good value for it’s price of $9.99, is DRM-free and also has a 60 day no quibble, money back guarantee. Overall, I give Spring Bonus  a 9.5 out of 10 – if it had a keyboard lock-out option, it would be a 10.